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The IT version of an NFL lockout

As the lead NFL reporter at ESPN, Adam Schefter is no stranger to breaking news, but it usually relates to injuries, trades and other transactions involving NFL teams and players. On Aug. 21, Schefter instead found himself reporting on — and directly involved in — an IT snafu around mobile device management.

Schefter, who has been known to text, tweet and check emails while on air at ESPN, was locked out of his iPhones and laptop after someone mistakenly placed him on the terminated employees list. IT was able to allow him back onto his devices later the same day, but not before the story spread across Twitter (after all, he has nearly four million followers).

Schefter took the incident in stride, but IT shops should use it as a reminder of the potential downsides of MDM. IT admins have the ability to remotely wipe or lock devices and can even do so inadvertently, which end users might not want to risk. Plus, many organizations want more security than MDM offers. Some MDM products include containerization, which places all the corporate applications and data in a secure location, but otherwise employees might be able to share data between business and personal apps. Finally, MDM vendors aren’t able to access enough of the OS-makers’ code to manage devices as closely as companies and end users would prefer.  For example, depending on the operating system and version, a remote wipe may cause a user to lose all data — personal and work-related — on that phone.

The good news is that organizations can now focus more granularly by using mobile application management (MAM), which allows IT to secure corporate data through in-app security policies and keep workers’ personal information separate. Nowadays, MAM is usually part of a larger enterprise mobility management strategy that can include device-level controls as well.

Companies can achieve even greater security by applying secure containers to enterprise apps, splitting devices into dual personas, or even using virtual mobile infrastructure to remotely deliver Android applications from the data center.

MDM isn’t a dinosaur, exactly, but ESPN’s tribulations demonstrate why some organizations might prefer other ways of managing corporate content on employees’ devices.